UK changes driving rules to accommodate autonomous vehicles
The UK government has unveiled plans to add new regulations its road safety rulebook, The Highway Code, to ensure that self-driving cars are introduced safely on public roads.
Most of the initial changes to the code focus on what motorists can and can’t do when their vehicle is in self-driving mode and is dictated by how quickly drivers are able to resume control of the car if they are prompted to.
On this score, while there are plans to change the current regulation to allow drivers to view video content on built-in screens, it will remain illegal to use mobile phones in self-driving mode because of research that shows they pose “a greater risk in terms of distracting drivers”.
The changes follow a public consultation launched by the government which found most respondents were “broadly supportive” of the proposed changes to clarify drivers’ responsibilities in autonomous vehicles.
The government added that it was continuing to develop a full legal framework for self-driving vehicles which it hoped to implement “before 2025”, by which time it anticipates “widespread deployment of the technology”.
The Department for Transport will also work with industry, regulators and safety organisations to ensure drivers can access information to help them use the vehicles safely.
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said that the changes represented “a milestone” in the safe introduction of self-driving cars.
“This exciting technology is developing at pace right here in Great Britain and we’re ensuring we have strong foundations in place for drivers when it takes to our roads,” she added.
According to Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation and Mike Hawes, chief exec of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the latest additions to The Highway Code will help drivers to understand what they must and must not do when self-driving features are engaged.
“With the right regulations in place, consumers are set to benefit from safer, more efficient journeys,” said Hawes.
Gooding added that the key challenge now was to ensure these amendments were widely communicated to, and understood by, vehicle owners.
“Vehicle manufacturers and sellers will have a vital role to play in ensuring their customers fully appreciate the capabilities of the cars they buy and the rules that govern them,” he added.
The government said in its statement that the development of self-driving vehicles could create around 38,000 new, high-skilled jobs within Britain’s industry that would be worth £41.7 billion by 2035.
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